It’s November 1st and the pumpkins are quickly packed away and the holiday advertisements are already in full effect. This year it seemed like the holiday spending started even earlier with Prime Day. While Amazon Prime Day typically happens in June/July, this year it was scheduled in October due to the pandemic, and was advertised as a way to get a kickstart on holiday spending… in October.
I remember the first time that the physical space of holiday presents caused stress in my life. It was 2017, my husband were married for less than 6 months and wedding gifts filled our closets. We were expecting our first child in May, and we were in the process of moving and had plans to put our house on the market January 2nd. I don’t think I have ever been so open and told people not to buy us gifts because most of them will be immediately put into storage until after we move. Sure enough, most of those gifts didn’t see the light of day until the following year as we were still unpacking and enjoying our first Christmas with our son in the new house.
The average person spends around $1000 on presents during the holiday season, with the average kid receiving around $400 in gifts. The exact number varies slightly from difference sources with the primary variance being additional holiday spending such as entertainment, holiday outfits, decorations, etc. With significant advertising and sales, people are quick to impulse buy at this time of the year and many even go into debt to buy gifts for their family and friends. This article on CNBC suggests that 16% of people will need 1-3 months to pay off their credit cards after the holidays, which can be even more painful when you account for the high interest rates.
Even with the high costs of the holiday seasons, so many people acknowledge that they don’t even like the gifts that they will receive. Mint did a survey that revealed 53% of people receive an unwanted Christmas gift and 46% of people have lied about enjoying a gift to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. So with less than 2 months until the big day, it’s important to think about your plan and not let yourself be caught off guard with impulse buys that may result in credit card debt. Take advantage of the time to communicate now with family and friends how they can best support you if you’re embracing a minimalist lifestyle and are reducing clutter in your home.
The 4 Gift Rule
The 4 gift rule breaks down as buying (1) something you want, (2) something you need, (3) something you’ll wear, and (4) something you’ll read. In the past, I have supplemented half of my sons gifts with clothes and appreciated that he’s too young to know the difference. However, he’s getting older, and it became clear to me that the more gifts he has, the less he will appreciate them. The first few gifts are really exciting, however as they continue to open them, each one has less and less impact on bringing them happiness. A few days later half of those presents sit in the corner and have hardly been touched.
As I reflect back on my childhood, I am appreciative that my family set a strict budget limit for my gifts, and while I was initially jealous of my friends who were getting new laptop computers, I learned to never take those things for granted because I always had to work hard for them. I am appreciative at this stage of my life for that lesson and extremely thankful my parents did that for me. While I may have only opened 4-5 presents, they were ones I truly enjoyed and could spend the rest of the day playing with.
While I haven’t decided exactly what I will get for my children this year, I know two things. (1) I want to challenge myself to use the 4 gift rule, and (2) I want to set a strict budget upfront before I see the sales and advertisements that are quick to encourage us to spend more. This will not only help me embrace the transition to a minimalist lifestyle but will also help me stay focused on my goals financially and set an excellent example for my children.
Give the Gift of Experiences
Many people ask me what my children would like for Christmas. I try to set the expectation that we don’t need to buy something new to bring happiness into our lives. Regardless, I’ve tried a few different ideas such as suggesting something they need (clothes, bedsheets, etc), or something educational such as books, or encouraging second hand toys to reduce waste. I’ve recently seen where people have embraced the idea of gifting experiences, and I think this is a fantastic opportunity to apply the same to our children. For example, I frequently gift my husband tickets to see his favorite baseball team in Chicago for his birthday, but it never occurred to me at the time how much this has prevented the unnecessary stuff in our home over the years.
While the pandemic has put a damper on our opportunities for experiences like baseball games or movie theaters, we can still be creative about ways to spend quality time with our children. One idea I really enjoy is a gift package that includes 12 different date nights such as movie nights with a bag of popcorn, cooking meals, game nights, camping trips, and more. While I have spent more time with my children in 2020, a lot of that time has been spent multitasking with long work hours, reducing the quality of my time with them. It has been a challenging year, but I can easily think of a few ways to gift them experiences and intentionally spend more one on one time with them while doing something they love.
Even if you don’t have children, experiences are a great idea for family or friends. In the past I’ve gifted concert tickets, Airbnb stays, or dinners at a restaurant. Depending on your situation given the pandemic, you could offer someone a free babysitting night, or dog sit for a weekend. You could provide all the ingredients for a dinner and gift with a bottle of wine, or maybe offer an IOU for a dinner drop off during a challenging week. In my last post I talked about letting people borrow your stuff to bring in a passive income. Maybe you can share your stuff as a gift for the holidays if you have an RV, boat, motorcycle, or something else that provides a memorable experience.
Supporting our Local Community
We’ve talked a lot about 2020 being a challenging year, but it has been especially so for most of our local businesses such as restaurants in communities that face restrictions during the pandemic. While many people believe that gift cards are not very thoughtful, I think 2020 is the year to embrace them. I personally feel this is a great opportunity to gift experiences while supporting a local shop or restaurant. Ordering takeout is often an option, or they could also hold onto this until after the pandemic has passed to enjoy a sit down meal. Purchasing that gift card can help the local business pay their rent and bills today, helping them to keep afloat until the pandemic passes and they have the ability to pull in higher revenues later.
Being Intentional with Gifting in 2020
As I think about ways to embrace minimalism and support my goals of financial independence, the 4 gift rule, gifting experiences, and supporting our community are all excellent ways to reduce the amount of physical stuff in our homes. Not only will reducing the physical stuff reduce the mental stress of clutter, but it can also help curb the temptation to spend excess this holiday season. By making a plan, we can provide intentional gifts and also leverage opportunities to support our local community while we gift experiences to others. Gifting experiences doesn’t always need to cost money either, as there are many ways to gift your time in creative ways that doesn’t hit the bank account hard and heavy.
How are you supporting your goals of minimalism or financial independence this holiday season? Is 2020 going to be different for you compared to previous years? What challenges do you expect to face? Are you nervous of disappointing your children or family members? Are you nervous they will gift you clutter and not sure about how to start that conversation?